The power of music
We live in a world of power, of which most people are unaware. From the cradle to the grave, power encompasses our being. A pity it is that we often think of power as a means to control, to manipulate, to dominate. However, power is to serve, to create, to transform, to inspire, to give life, to be artificers of our destiny. Power, at its best, is not for destruction but for life. There is the power to be oneself, power to be comfortable in the castle of one's being.
We are not giving sufficient attention to the human psyche. Education, for us, is all about studying things and other people's actions. It is never about studying ourselves. And yet, we cannot be truly educated until we understand that the main purpose of human life is to know ourselves and to be what we are called to be.
Little attention is given to the hidden resources of mankind. We hitch our wagon so much on the material needs of man that we neglect his intimate, psychological needs. There are tremendous forces at work that tell us who we are and what we need to live a balanced and happy life, even when we do not experience material progression and prosperity.
Many years ago, when I was drafted into the U.S. Army, we did Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. What I remember most pointedly was the voice of Eddie Fisher, one of the most popular performers at that time, which filled the whole military post. Day after day, we heard the song, 'Oh, Mein Papa'. It was a song which bewailed the loss of a father. One is left to wonder why the military authorities would choose that song.
That song carried a sense of loss, which is not a comforting feature. Yet, there was something alluring, something becoming in that tune. All of us, young soldiers, were uprooted from our milieu, our environment. There was a sense of missing something. I think that the value of that song was that it was an expression of profound loss, which we all shared. In that sense, it was a message of empathy and compassion. It addressed a very deep human need. It was comforting to be assured that we were not alone.
Music is the most universal of all artistic expressions. It has no limits, no bounds. It comes from every quarter of the globe. It can enter every nook and cranny of human life. No situation is impossible for it to address.
In the oppressive days of apartheid in South Africa, when Blacks were crushed by a cruel and inhumane system, nothing eased their pain so much as the voice of Miriam Makeba, South African singer, as she chanted, 'We Are Going: Heaven Knows Where We Are Going'. The people would burst into tears as they experienced a sense of compassion and a sense of hope. The Negro Spirituals served the same purpose for the slaves in the U.S.A.
Music is a powerful force. It is a tremendous soothing remedy. It addresses our inner being and impels us to go forward and confront the challenges of life. At best, it is the celebration of life. It associates us with universal harmony. It is a loud proclamation that it is good to be alive.
The most important thing is not to study music, as such. Rather, it is to be open to music. It is to allow music to fashion our being as it pervades our lives. There is music in our lives. We have to relish it and embellish it.
Life at its best is music. We are not makers or creators of music. We are, rather, communicators of music. The great musicians have been people who had the art of infusing music into the lives of people. Not all musicians have had a beautiful voice. Louis Armstrong had a raucous voice; he sang like a person who was perpetually hoarse. Yet, he charmed millions throughout the world.
In the Caribbean, we seem to delight in only one kind of music—the music that is entertaining and exciting. It is a symbol of the kind of people we are. We are not very deep in our perceptions, our desires and our evaluations. There is also the music that inspires, that invites us to wonder. When shall we be treated to light music at our hospitals, our banks, our supermarkets and at our other community places? Music is a wonderful, faithful companion. Music has the power to calm our restlessness, to challenge our moods and place us into the composure, comfort and peace, which are of absolute necessity for a balanced, reflective, happy and creative life.